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Bland cast, flat jokes make Grammer-produced show sketchy at best

The writers at ''Saturday Night Live" couldn't have asked for better evidence that what they do isn't easy. ''Kelsey Grammer Presents: The Sketch Show" is a showcase of skits that just don't click. Based on a British hit called simply ''The Sketch Show," the six-episode Fox series tries to jump-start the genre in the States with a half-hour of quick bits, machine-gun pacing, and apolitical whimsy. But it ends up playing like a misguided attempt to revive ''Laugh-In."

As on ''Laugh-In," many of the sketches repeat the same motif with varying punch lines. Throughout the premiere, tomorrow at 9:30 p.m. on Channel 25, an astronaut steps out of a space capsule onto the moon and meets with different punch lines -- forgetting his keys to get back on board, for example. The scenario wasn't much of anything the first time out; it's even less on the fourth go-round. Other sketches are one-offs, built around double entendres and puns. In a restaurant scene, a man gets slapped by a waitress after asking for a ''quickie." ''It's pronounced quiche," his friend explains to him. At another point, two men in armor walk into a hotel lobby and announce, ''We'd like a room for two knights, please."

The cast members are surprisingly bland for a comedic style that usually requires high-spiritedness and the ability to create vivid, memorable characterizations. The most recognizable face belongs to Mary Lynn Rajskub, best known for her dramatic role as Chloe on ''24." Like the three other Americans on board, Kaitlin Olson, Paul F. Tompkins, and Malcolm Barrett, she's more of a likable background player than a leading comic force. Lee Mack, who starred in the original British series, brings a little more intensity to the troupe.

Kelsey Grammer also makes a few brief appearances on the show that bears his imprimatur. But even the star of ''Frasier" can't quite make a meal out of these tossed salads and scrambled eggs.

Matthew Gilbert can be reached at

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